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ND Cross Country: ND golf course hosts Notre Dame Invitational

Laura Myers | Friday, October 3, 2008

Running is never easy, but it is going to get a little more difficult for the men’s and women’s cross country teams this afternoon.

The Irish will host 60 schools today at the Notre Dame Invitational at the Notre Dame Golf Course. Five of the men’s teams and eight of the women’s teams competing are currently ranked in the Top 30 of the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.

“I think it’s going to be a real challenge,” men’s head coach Joe Piane said. “I think we’re as ready as we can be at this point.”

The ranked men’s teams include No. 8 Michigan and No. 9 Georgetown, and the women’s teams include No. 3 Florida State and No. 6 Princeton.

Both Fighting Irish teams have done well so far against less intense competition. The men won the Sept. 5 Crusader Open in Valparaiso and came in second at the Sept. 18 National Catholic Champions at Notre Dame. The women came in second in Valparaiso and won the Catholic Championships.

The No. 27 Irish men will run several upperclassmen in the five-mile race, including senior Patrick Smyth, who finished second in this event in 2007, and sophomore Paul Springer, who won the Catholic Championships, where the Irish ran six rookies.

Following that race, Piane said the team could have done much better.

“We had some freshmen who struggled,” he said. “They should get better as time goes on.”

The men finished first of 23 teams at the Notre Dame Invitational in 2007. They have taken the top spot at this event 16 times since its inception in 1956.

The women hope to do better than their 12th place 2007 finish, but they acknowledge the challenge, head coach Tim Connelly said.

“They understand the reality of the situation,” he said. “They will be running against some of the best girls in the country. How they react is the great unknown.”

Among the competition will be two-time NCAA champion Sally Kipyego of Texas Tech.

Connelly said the women would need strong performances from its stars, junior Lindsey Ferguson and sophomore Marissa Treece. The two finished first and second, respectively, at the Catholic Championships.

“Those two are fit and pretty talented. We’ll need them in the lead pack to be able to do well,” he said.

The women’s race will begin at 4:15 and the men will begin at 5:00.